Reigning footballer of the year Rodwell Chinyengetere scored a memorable second-half brace as champions FC Platinum shook off their midweek blues to beat Herentals 2-0 and open up a five-point lead at the top of the Zimbabwe Premier League.
Platinum’s win came just as inconsistency returned to hold back title rivals Ngezi Platinum, who were stunned 1-0 at Yadah to see their dream of a maiden league title begin to fall apart.
Saturday’s results represented a reversal of roles in a way after Platinum had been the team to stumble in a 1-1 midweek draw against Black Rhinos while Ngezi collected full points at home to ZPC Kariba.
Just as was the case last season, Chinyengetere is seizing centre stage when it matters the most, with his brace on Saturday taking his goal tally to six in the last three matches.
The former Hwange midfielder was in the thick of things with a hat-trick as Platinum clobbered Mutare City 6-0 a week ago, while his late strike in midweek saved the champions from a potentially demoralising defeat.
Chinyengetere’s double on Saturday takes him to 14 goals for the season, three clear of his rivals for the Golden Boot award.
More importantly, the victory over Herentals shows Platinum are beginning to flex their muscle in the title race, with four victories and a draw in their last six matches helping retain a comfortable cushion.
Ngezi coach Tonderai Ndiraya must be frustrated at the frequency at which his team are dropping points at the most unlikely of places, with Yadah becoming the second side in the relegation zone to defeat the title hopefuls in the last four matches.
The teams were deadlocked going to the breather, and Ngezi’s desperate push for a winner in the second half proved futile.
Instead, it was Yadah who broke the deadlock deep into stoppage time as Zvikomborero Bizeki converted from close range to fire his team to a first win in seven matches.
Elsewhere, there was relief for third-placed Chicken Inn, who beat bottom-placed Bulawayo City 2-1 to come to within seven points of Ngezi.
Nicole Mutatiwa and Daryl Nyandoro scored either side of the break to give the Game Corks a 2-0 lead, and Toto Banda’s 90th-minute goal came too late to save bottom-placed City from an eighth consecutive defeat.
For CAPS United however, it was a return to a familiar theme as they needed to come from behind to salvage a 1-1 draw at home to second-bottom Shabanie Mine.
Lloyd Chitembwe’s men had registered two consecutive wins to raise hopes of a late season revival only for Shabanie to provide the reality check as they collected their second point in seven matches.
The sombre mood at Highlanders looks set to persist for at least another week after a 2-0 loss at ZPC Kariba.
A run of four defeats in the last five matches is sparking concerns that coach Madinda Ndlovu’s development project has gone off the rails.
Tawanda Nyamandwe handed Kariba the lead on 17 minutes, and as the visitors frantically searched for an equaliser in the second half, disaster struck again with little-known Boniface Zuberi netting a second 20 minutes from time.